Matt Bonner Says There Is Discouragement and Frustration Right Now in Labor Talks

September 16, 2011 – 9:20 am by Chris Fedor

As training camps in the NBA are supposed to open up in less than three weeks, the league remains in a lockout. While the two sides were hopeful they would get closer to a deal when they met this week, no progress was made between the two sides, frustration became apparent on both sides, and it looks like they are at a standstill. The NBA is at the height of its popularity and neither side can afford to lose games. The clock is ticking and it’s not time to panic at this point, but both sides will have to compromise a little bit to get this done.

Matt Bonner joined The Fan 590 in Toronto with Gord Stellick and Eric Smith to talk how the players feel at this point with the negotiations in the labor talks, if he feels like the owners are just posturing right now, what the issues are that are preventing a deal from getting done, if he feels there is a drop dead date right now to get a deal done, and what the stance is from the players side right now.

How the players are feeling right now after the meetings on Tuesday:

“Definitely a sense of discouragement and frustration from a player’s point of view. We had the small group sessions last week and from that it seemed like the owners were willing to compromise and make the hard decisions and get a deal done. That’s why Billy Hunter called in the entire executive board for the meeting on Tuesday. David Stern had 14 out of the 15 owners on his committee present and our union met all day Monday, going over everything, making sure we were all on the same page and ready to go, and try to get a deal done. Obviously a deal that we weren’t going to like but we were willing to put forth the effort and make the compromise and the sacrifices to prevent anything from getting cancelled. We went into the meeting and the owners basically backtracked from what was indicated the week before. They refused to compromise, wouldn’t budge, stood their ground, and it was really frustrating. As a result we’re kinda back to where we were and no progress was made.”

If he feels like the owners are just posturing right now:

“No, I mean obviously up until Tuesday everything has been posturing. I can’t really blame one side or another for the reason a deal hasn’t been reached because the calendar was on both sides side. There wasn’t really any pressure from the calendar on either side. Now with the recent drop dead date for training camp and preseason and approaching regular season stuff, there’s definitely a lot more pressure on each side. Through that natural pressure we saw a window, based on what we thought was indicated a week before, we saw a window to possibly get a deal done. We did everything we could to prepare ourselves for that. The owners just did not share that attitude.”

What issues are holding up a deal getting done:

“There’s two huge issues here. The system which means hard cap or soft cap. For the average fan that doesn’t know the difference if you move to a hard cap system it virtually eliminates guaranteed contracts and that kind of security is obviously important to a professional athlete who puts his body on the line every night. Aside from the system, the percentage of BRI which is basketball related income or revenue. If they want us to move off that percentage significantly which we understand the times and the economy and everything, we understand that both sides need to make sacrifices. We just want a fair deal. We’re willing to move off the economics a little bit thinking we can maintain our system and they’re just trying to stick it to us on both sides. If that’s the case we’re never going to reach a deal.”

Whether or not they have been told there is a drop dead date:

“Not really. I was more speculating because I know the owners are having a meeting with everyone today. I was assuming that they were going to take what they could from the meetings last week and on Tuesday and go into that meeting and see what was going to happen in regards to training camp and preseason. That’s why I was speculating that.”

What the message was from Derek Fisher, President of the Player’s Association:

“I think it’s to stand strong and hold the line. I think for both sides time is on our side. I think it’s gonna put more pressure and make a deal more imminent as time goes by and we get closer to everything and then even start missing stuff. Hopefully it never comes to that and that’s what we’re working really hard to do. We want to avoid that at all cost. I just pray the owners have that same sentiment.”

On why the player’s have decided to stay unified as opposed to decertification like the players did in the NFL:

“Well decertification carries a lot of risks obviously for both sides. You decertify and try to sue the money into trust laws, take years to get through court, and maybe the end game you can win triple damages in a judgment or you can lose and get nothing. There’s a lot of cohesiveness in a union and it gives us some leverage. It’s just really risky and at this point in time guys are standing strong and guys are still unified. We know what we want, we’re all on the same page, we’re in this together, and that’s kinda the attitude we’re taking.”

Listen to Matt Bonner on The Fan 590 in Toronto here

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